Inside the Best Picture Nominees: A deep dive into 'Midnight in Paris'

midnight-in-paris

Image Credit: Roger Arpajou

There are a whopping nine films nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards. And between your work, family, and constant USA marathons of Law & Order: SVU (when will those ever stop being addictive?!), you simply may not have time to catch all nine in the theaters or at home. But never fear, dear PopWatchers — that’s why we’re here! Each day leading up to the Academy Awards on Feb. 26, we’ll provide you with a deep dive into one of the nine Best Picture nominees. Fear showing up to your Oscars party unprepared to discuss the year’s most notable films? We’ve got you covered. (Just beware: SPOILERS AHEAD!) And if you’ve already seen all nine films, even better — our inside look at each nominee will serve as a handy guide to remind you of the best and worst moments from every Best Picture candidate this year. Today, we take a look at Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. (Be sure to click here for more deep dives into this year’s Best Picture nominees!) 

Name: Midnight in Paris

Release date: May 20, 2011 (Limited), June 20, 2011 (Wide)

DVD release date: Available now

Runtime: 1 hour, 34 mins.

Box Office: Opening weekend (Wide): $5.8 million; Total domestic box office: $56.5 million

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93 percent

Midnight in Paris’ movie math: Any Woody Allen film + (An American in Paris x Moulin Rouge) – happy Wedding Crashers ending for Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams

Tweetable description of Midnight in Paris: Nostalgic Hollywood hack hangs with Hemingway and other familiar faces in 1920s Paris and learns to live and dream in the present.

What EW’s Lisa Schwarzbaum said: “But even as Allen goes further than he’s ever dared toward acknowledging his weakness for nostalgia, the movie still confuses easy travelogue photography — pretty pics of France for distractible Americans — with dynamic filmmaking. ‘We’ll always have Paris,’ the director suggests. Oui, so long as we think of Paris as a joke about Scott and Zelda — and a beauty shot of the Eiffel Tower. B

Number of Oscar nominations: Four. In addition to Best Picture, it’s also nominated for Best Original Screenplay (Woody Allen), Best Director (Woody Allen), and Best Art Direction (set decorator Hélène Dubreuil and production designer Anne Seibel, who gave EW a look at her process here).

Cast/Director’s Oscar history: Midnight in Paris marks Allen’s 15th nomination as a writer and seventh nod as a director. (He also has one Best Actor nomination, for Annie Hall.) He’s won three Oscars, for directing and co-writing Annie Hall and for penning Hannah and Her Sisters. He last won an Academy Award 25 years ago. The film’s stars with Oscar cred include Wilson (Gil), who was nominated for co-writing The Royal Tenenbaums, and Marion Cotillard (Adriana), who won Best Actress for La vie en rose; the scene-stealing supporting players include three-time nominee Kathy Bates (Gertrude Stein), who won for Misery, and Adrien Brody (Salvador Dali), who won for The Pianist.

What Midnight in Paris has won thus far: The film has yet to be singled out, but Allen’s screenplay honors include a Golden Globe, a Critics Choice Award, and a Writers Guild Award.

Why Midnight in Paris should win Best Picture: It’s an imaginative, poetic reminder that everyone throughout history probably thought an earlier time period was the Golden Age because life, no matter when you’re living it, is complicated and a little unsatisfying. It makes those of us who have a degree in art history feel like we didn’t totally waste it, and yet, it’s accessible to the masses. 

Why Midnight in Paris should not win Best Picture: What Lisa Schwarzbaum said above and what EW’s Owen Gleiberman says below… In short, is the film too one-note to be a classic Woody Allen movie? 

Betting odds: 75/1, Las Vegas Sports Betting

EW’s Dave Karger’s odds: It’s in the middle of the pack, with Karger ranking it fifth most likely to take home the Best Picture Oscar in his latest predictions. (Better news: He believes Allen will win Original Screenplay.)

Moment most worthy of an Oscar: Gil’s attempt at a heart-to-heart with Dali, Man Ray (Tom Cordier), and Luis Buñuel (Adrien De Van). Man Ray: “A man in love with a woman from a different era… I see a photograph.” Luis Buñuel: “I see a film.” Gil: “I see an insurmountable problem.” Dali: “I see… a rhinoceros.” It’s casually, confidently ludicrous — like the film itself.

Best line from Midnight in Paris: If we’re talking one-liners, Paul (Michael Sheen) responding to Gil saying he wants to live in an attic in Paris: “All that’s missing is the Tuberculosis.” If we’re taking a monologue, Hemingway (Corey Stoll) explaining to Gil what making love to a woman with passion that makes you lose your fear of death does for a man: “I believe that love that is true and real creates a respite from death. All cowardice comes from not loving or not loving well, which is the same thing. And when the man who is brave and true looks death squarely in the face, like some rhino hunters I know, or Belmonte, who is truly brave, it is because they love with sufficient passion to push death out of their minds until it returns as it does to all men. And then you must make really good love again. Think about it.”

Worst line from Midnight in Paris: “I love walking with you. You look amazing.” – Gil, objectifying Adriana just as much as Picasso did.

MVP (Most Valuable Prop): Dali’s cane, which he uses to get the attention of Gil for Brody’s most enjoyable performance in years.

Best fashion moment: La Belle Époque Maxim’s: Not only can you appreciate the fabulous yellow flapper dress Adriana wears, but you can appreciate what a difference 30 years makes in fashion as she mingles among women from the 1890s. Also, even when she dances with Gil, she keeps her purse with her. (Unattended purses are a big movie pet peeve of mine.)

Worst fashion moment: Gil’s a yawn anytime he’s time-traveling, but my feet hurt looking at the heels Inez wears for a day of shopping and art museums.

Best music moment: I should probably say Cole Porter (Yves Heck) playing “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love)” when Gil first parties in the ’20s, or Joséphine Baker (Sonia Rolland) dancing to “La Conga Blicoti” (for the look on Wilson’s face alone), but I’m partial to the opening montage set to Sidney Bechet’s “Si Tu Vois Ma Mère.” Only afterward do you realize it was a test: When it started to rain, were you thinking, “Aw, how beautiful!” or “Ugh, that sucks!” — be honest.

Best casting story: Allen knew he wanted to work with Wilson after seeing him in Wedding Crashers. “You know, we never spoke until I got this letter from him, which of course I still have — this great, well-written letter saying ‘This is what I’m thinking, we’ll be filming in Paris, take a look at the script, and see what you think.’ So then I said I wanted to be involved, but we never spoke and never met until I got to France before filming,'” Wilson told EW.

Personal best?: Midnight in Paris is now Allen’s top-grossing movie of all-time, perplexing some of his fans, like EW critic Owen Gleiberman who wrote: “I’m well aware that Midnight in Paris is a movie that a lot of people seem to love, or at least like a lot. But to me it’s a minor shock that this movie, with its one-note flippancy and its Great Artist caricatures who seem to have walked in out of an old Saturday Night Live sketch, has gotten such a hold on audiences. The movie may on some level be charming, and it’s got that Paris-in-the-rain, summer-travelogue-from-heaven factor, but, I’m sorry, its slightly daffy la vie de bohème nostalgia is so, so thin. Which is why its all-time-biggest-hit status for Woody looms as quite a paradox in his career.”

On the town: Deyrolle, a real Parisian taxidermy shop, was transformed for the eccentric 1920s wedding party. “Woody loved it from the beginning, so he really wanted to do something with the shop,” production designer Anne Seibel told EW. “The bear was [already] there, the rabbits, most of the things you see [in the scene]…. When Woody shot, he put the tiger on the table.”

Five Oscar Party talking points:

1) Was Rachel McAdams “miscast as a status-conscious shrew,” as Lisa Schwarzbaum suggests?

2) Where does Midnight in Paris rank among Allen’s films?

3) What kind of starring role should Adrien Brody take to make us like him as much as we did in this bit part?

4) Is walking in the rain romantic or a real pain in the ass?

5) In what city would you love to see Woody Allen set a film? (He headed to Rome for his next film, Nero Fiddled.)

Read more:
EW Special Coverage: Oscars 2012 
Oscars 2012 Behind the Scenes: ‘Midnight in Paris’ production designer Anne Seibel on transporting moviegoers back in time
Woody Allen lists the five iconic actresses he wishes he could go back in time to direct — EXCLUSIVE
‘Midnight in Paris’ becomes Woody Allen’s all-time biggest hit. How the heck did that happen?
Owen Wilson talks about ‘Midnight in Paris’, his favorite Woody Allen films, and the weather

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